Ford factory team climbs off canvas in Race 18
Mark Winterbottom restored some pride back into the battered FPR operation by claiming a stunning comeback victory in Race 18 at Hidden Valley.
Winterbottom dominated the race with a perfect drive after grabbing the lead early in the race and securing his first win since May last year. The strategy to delay his stop for soft tyres by several laps compared to many of his rivals proved a master strategy.
Poleman James Courtney came back strongly to finish second while Craig Lowndes produced a storming finish to grab third.
Winterbottom’s Ford Performance Racing team-mate Will Davison held on for fourth ahead of Jamie Whincup.
Jono Webb was sixth but may come under fire for an incident with Scott Pye with Fabian Coulthard, Shane van Gisbergen, Garth Tander and David Reynolds filling the top 10.
Webb had turned Scott Pye (NT Shipping Commodore) around after the Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport driver had his hands full. Pye was the only driver not to pit and was lapping several seconds a lap slower than the rest of the field when the incident happened.
With Winterbottom out in front the heat was rising behind with some fierce battles for playing out behind him.
On lap 32 Courtney outdid Davison under brakes going into the turn one left-hander to grab second as Lowndes began to pour on the pressure with a sustained attack from the rear.
Lowndes then grabbed Davison to claim third and quickly loomed up on the bumper of Courtney with Winterbottom 5s up the road.
Winterbottom pitted after 15 laps and rejoined ahead of Davison and Scott McLaughlin (GRM Commodore) but were shuffled down to midfield, although they were the effective top three with those in front of them yet to pit.
Dean Fiore (Dodo Commodore) was left to lead the field after starting on the soft rubber but he would ultimately pit mid-race for new rubber.
Soon afterwards Winterbottom and Davison had command of the race with Courtney third ahead of the recovering Whincup.
Earlier the majority of the field started to file into the pits to take on soft rubber after the first dozen laps.
In the early laps Winterbottom was applying pressure to Courtney in the battle for the lead before taking the position from the HRT driver.
Back in the field Tim Slade was shown the bad sportsmanship flag for blocking Russell Ingall while Maro Engel (SP Tools Mercedes E63 AMG) ran off onto the grass at turn one.
McLaughlin was the first one to pit for soft tyres on lap four and quickly began lapping a full second quicker than the leader as he started to tackle the task of coming from last. He was ultimately classified in 27th after being forced into a strategy of doing too many laps on the soft compound Dunlops after wrecking his set of hards in the early stages.
Fiore and Russell Ingall (Supercheap Auto Commodore) made some raids into the top 10 in the first third of the race on after starting on the soft compound rubber.
RESULTS: Race 18 – Hidden Valley Raceway Darwin
|1||5||Pepsi Max Crew FPR Ford||Mark Winterbottom||Ford Falcon FG|
|2||22||Holden Racing Team||James Courtney||Holden Commodore VF|
|3||888||Red Bull Racing Australia||Craig Lowndes||Holden Commodore VF|
|4||6||Pepsi Max Crew FPR Ford||Will Davison||Ford Falcon FG|
|5||1||Red Bull Racing Australia||Jamie Whincup||Holden Commodore VF|
|6||19||Tekno Autosports||Jonathon Webb||Holden Commodore VF|
|7||14||Lockwood Racing||Fabian Coulthard||Holden Commodore VF|
|8||97||TEKNO Team VIP||Shane Van Gisbergen||Holden Commodore VF|
|9||2||Holden Racing Team||Garth Tander||Holden Commodore VF|
|10||55||The Bottle-O FPR Ford||David Reynolds||Ford Falcon FG|
|11||47||Heavy Haulage Australia Racing||Tim Slade||Mercedes E63 AMG|
|12||7||Jack Daniel’s Racing||Todd Kelly||Nissan Altima|
|13||8||Team BOC||Jason Bright||Holden Commodore VF|
|14||21||Wilson Security Racing||David Wall||Holden Commodore VF|
|15||34||Fujitsu Racing GRM||Alexandre Premat||Holden Commodore VF|
|16||4||Irwin Racing||Lee Holdsworth||Mercedes E63 AMG|
|17||12||Wilson Security Racing||Chaz Mostert||Ford Falcon FG|
|18||3||Team HIFLEX||Tony D’Alberto||Holden Commodore VF|
|19||88||Dodo Insurance Racing||Dean Fiore||Holden Commodore VF|
|20||18||Jeld-wen FPR Ford||Alex Davison||Ford Falcon FG|
|21||36||Norton 360 Racing||Michael Caruso||Nissan Altima|
|22||9||SP Tools Racing||Maro Engel||Mercedes E63 AMG|
|23||360||Norton 360 Racing||James Moffat||Nissan Altima|
|24||17||Wilson Security Racing||Tim Blanchard||Ford Falcon FG|
|25||15||Jack Daniel’s Racing||Rick Kelly||Nissan Altima|
|26||66||Supercheap Auto Racing||Russell Ingall||Holden Commodore VF|
|27||33||Fujitsu Racing GRM||Scott McLaughlin||Holden Commodore VF|
|28||80||ekol Racing||Scott Pye||Holden Commodore VF|